Around 15 protesters, sporting white pants with red paint splattered over their groin, congregated at the bustling corner of the 2100 South and 300 West to spread awareness about the alleged harms of male infant circumcision.
Wednesday’s demonstration was part of the anti-circumcision group Blood Stained Men’s 20-day protest tour around the Rocky Mountains, with stops in Denver, Wyoming and Montana. While the provocative costumes and posters get frequent honks, pictures, odd looks and chuckles from passersby, for the group’s spokesman, Harry Guiremand, male circumcision is a serious matter.
“Circumcision is a knife attack against a helpless child; it’s violence against a child,” Guiremand told City Weekly. “If you’ve ever seen video of a circumcision you realize it’s not just a snip—it’s a violent, traumatic, horrific procedure attacking the most vulnerable part of a child’s body with a knife.”
The group argues that circumcision is morally unjust because the act removes a body part from an infant who is unable to provide consent. The foreskin is also valuable for sexual pleasure and medical justifications for its removal are inaccurate, according to Guiremand.
Circumcision rates around the world are much lower than the United States, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which says between 76 to 92% of males are circumcised in the U.S. The practice is uncommon in Europe, and while it was once popular in Australia and New Zealand, circumcisions have fallen out of vogue in those countries, Guiremand said.
“The foreskin contains most of the sexual sensitivity of the penis, so if you take that from someone, they’ve lost most of their capacity to feel sexual pleasure,” Guiremand said. “The foreskin also has protective functions. It keeps the glans as an internal organ. Just like the eye or the mouth, it’s supposed to be kept moist and internal.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, maintains that “health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks.” Studies by the WHO indicate that male circumcision can reduce the risk of heterosexually transmitted HIV by 60% and the organization recommends circumcision by trained medical professionals in countries where HIV is prevalent.
Guiremand said these studies are inaccurate or exaggerated and are part of a long history of debunked medical justification for circumcision.
Infant circumcision is common as a religious practice in Judaism and Islam, but Guiremand said that there is a new movement in Judaism to abandon the practice. Brit shalom is a naming ceremony in Judaism that does not involve cutting the foreskin and has grown in popularity.
“In American we have the concept of freedom of religion and that means that nobody can force you to join a religion,” Guiremand said. “But if you carve your religion into a child’s body, you’re forcing them … the boy has a right to freedom of religion, too. He has the right to choose.”
David Atkinson, a member of Blood Stained Men who was raised Mormon in Utah, said the teachings of the LDS church argue against body modifications like tattoos and piercings. He found the permanent removal of foreskin as hypocritical to these tenets.
“The people that were telling me that my body is so important and to not ever make any permanent alterations, were also allowing permanent genital modifications,” Atkinson said. “God made your body perfect and you should not modify it.”